Envy Crucified Jesus

When it came to the final hours of Jesus’ ministry, and prior to His crucifixion, Matthew recorded the true motives of the religious leaders. Even the unbelieving Pilate to whom the religious leaders delivered Jesus, knew their motives: “For he knew that the chief priests had delivered Him because of envy (Mk 15:10; see Mt 27:18). The situation at the time of the crucifixion was as it was when Paul stood before resistent Jews in Antioch of Pisidia: “But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy. And contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed those things that were spoken by Paul” (At 13:45). The religious leaders of the day behaved as was stated by Aeschylus: “No man is a complete failure until he begins disliking men who succeed.”

If the multitudes believed that Jesus was truly the Messiah, then the bank accounts of the religious leadership would be emptied. The Sinai law would be nailed to the cross, and thus the obligation of the people to contribute to the priests would be nullified (Cl 2:14). In order not to send their “stock market” into a crash, the priests and Pharisees knew that Jesus had to go.

Paul identified envy as a work of the flesh (Gl 5:21; see 1 Tm 6:4; Ti 3:3). It was because of this work of the flesh that Joseph’s brothers sold him into captivity (Gn 37:11). These brothers allowed envy to destroy their love for their own brother, for their envy overpowered their love (See 1 Co 13:4). Even out of envy some preached Christ in Rome in order to stir up animosity against Paul (Ph 1:15). Envy is the motivation for doing all sorts of evil things in order to accomplish one’s own selfish goals (Js 3:14). Because the religious leaders of Jesus’ day envied Him, they were moved with evil motives to have Him removed from their midst.

We can be sure of one thing in reference to the attitude of envy. Where there is envy, there is always confusion and the implementation of evil works. James concluded, “For where envy and strife exist, there is confusion and every evil work” (Js 3:16). Envy produced an evil work by sending Jesus to the cross. It will do the same today.

[See you tomorrow.]

Ignorance Crucified Jesus.

Jesus suffered on the cross as a result of the ignorance of the people. It was as said by Goethe: “There is no more terrible sight than ignorance in action.”   Those who crucified Jesus really did not believe that He was the incarnation of God. It is the same problem that exists throughout the world today. In His final moments on the cross, Jesus requested of the Father on behalf of those who crucified Him, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing (Lk 23:34).

When antagonistic persecutors were picking up stones to martyr Stephen, Stephen said almost the same words: “Lord, do not lay this sin to their charge” (At 7:60). It was a time again when, because of ignorance, people were opposing the way of righteousness. If those who drove the nails into the hands of Jesus, or lifted stones to hurl against Stephen, actually knew that Jesus was the Son of God, things would have been different. They would have been different, but not for our benefit. And thus, God used the ignorance of religiously misguided people to bring about the redemption of those who would later understand.

Not long after the cross and resurrection, Peter was apologetic for the people who crucified Jesus. “And now, brethren, I know that through ignorance you did it, as did also your rulers” (At 3:17). In his former years, Paul (Saul) was one of those rulers who reacted out of ignorance to persecute all those who believed that Jesus was the Son of God.   However, this changed when Jesus finally slapped him off his horse on his way to Damascus to imprison Christians.   Paul wrote many years later of his former behavior, “I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and injurious.   But I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Tm 1:13).

Under the Sinai law there was a provision for those who sinned “unintentionally” (Nm 15:27-29). But those who nailed Jesus to the cross intentionally crucified Him because of their willful ignorance. They were as their forefathers against whom God pronounced destruction because they willfully forgot the word of God (Hs 4:6). By the time Jesus arrived, all the prophecies concerning the Messiah had already been made. They had been fulfilled by the time of His ascension (See Lk 24:44).   But because of the hardness of the hearts of many of the religious leaders of the day, most could not connect all the dots of prophecy with fulfillment in order to conclude that Jesus was the One for whom the Jews had hoped for centuries.

And then we consider those today who willfully remain in ignorance of Jesus as the Son of God. They are without excuse, for they not only have all the Old Testament prophecies concerning Jesus as the Redeemer, but they also have the New Testament that is a record of the fulfillment of the prophecies. John’s record of the gospel alone is enough to produce the belief that is necessary to accept Jesus as the Christ. John wrote,

And Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written so that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, and Son of God, and that believing you might have life through His name (Jn 20:30,31).

The Holy Spirit has given all the proof necessary that is required to move one unto obedience of the gospel. It is today similar to the situation about which the Hebrew writer wrote concerning some in the first century: “For if we sin willfully after we have receive the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins (Hb 10:26). There are some who willfully forget (2 Pt 3:5). There are others who have no love for the truth of the gospel (2 Th 2:10-12). But it is now as Paul said to his audience in Athens, “And the times of this ignorance God has overlooked, but now He commands all men everywhere to repent (At 17:30).

We must not allow ignorance to lure us into complacency. If we do, then Peter’s exhortation of 2 Peter 3:5,7 is a warning of coming things that will come upon us as a thief in the night:

For this they willfully forget …. But the heavens and the earth that are now, are reserved by the same word, reserved for the fire until the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

[See you tomorrow.]

Sins that Crucified Jesus – Intro.

Around thirty years after the initial proclamation that millennia of prophecy had been fulfilled in the coming of the Redeemer of mankind, a most disheartening thing began to occur with some of the first generation of believers. As national Israel neared its end in A.D. 70, the “signs of the times” began to appear over the western horizon as Rome was determined to silence forever the rebellious Jews of Palestine. In fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy of the doom of Jerusalem (Mt 24), the rumbling march of Roman soldiers was heard who were on their way to the heart of Jewish patriotism, Jerusalem. The city would soon be doomed to fulfill the prophecy of Daniel that national Israel would come to a close (See Dn 12).

In Palestine, Jewish patriotism was reaching its climax. Judaism, the national religion, was revitalized in the early and mid 60s. Intimidation to the nationalism of all Jews who lived in Palestine became intense. Jews were recruited to maintain their faith in national Israel by joining in the rebellion against the foreign occupation of Rome.

On his final trip to the “mother city” of Jerusalem, Paul wanted to give a last chance to his “brethren in the flesh,” his fellow Jews (See Rm 9:1-3; 10:1). He arrived in Palestine first at the coastal city of Ceasarea.   Understanding the fearlessness of Paul, and the imminent danger in Jerusalem, the Jewish disciples in Caesarea “pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem” (At 21:12). Nevertheless, Paul persisted in his determination to give the Jews his last efforts to believe in Jesus. He comforted the disciples in Caesarea with these words: “What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus (At 21:13). These were the words of a brave-hearted disciple for Jesus who had weathered the storm of persecution for two decades. However, not all the Jewish disciples at the time could make this statement. This was the problem in Judea.

When the apostle Paul eventually arrived in Jerusalem around A.D. 59, the Jewish elders of the church urged him not to do anything that would further inflame the irrational nationalism of overzealous Jews who were prevalent in the city. The elders advised Paul that he purify himself according to Jewish law, pay the temple expenses of four other men, and then enter the temple in order to make a show that he was not against Jewish customs (See At 21:17-25). But this was to no avail because God had plans to get Paul to Rome in order to testify before Caesar concerning Christ.   God wanted the world to know that Christianity was not a sect of Judaism, but was the result of His sending of the Christ for the salvation of the world (At 23:11).

Regardless of all efforts of Rome to pacify the Jewish nationalists in their insurrection against Roman occupation of Palestine, the decade of the 60s eventually culminated with the destruction of Jerusalem and national Israel in A.D. 70. Leading up to this date, the decade of the 60s was a time of intimidation for formerly converted Jews. Their fellow unbelieving Jews sought to intimidate believing Jesus away from Jesus in order that they return to the religion of their forefathers. As a result, some Jewish Christians in Palestine were forsaking Christ in order to return to the Sinai law. The letter of Hebrews was written in order to combat this apostasy. Hebrews 6:4-6 is one of the most disheartening passages that ever came forth from the pen of an inspired writer:

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and have become partakes of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.

 

The apostasy that was taking place at the time this statement was made occurred because there were those who were not willing, as Paul, “to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (At 21:13). Regardless of any individual reasons for forsaking Jesus in order to conform to a dead law, and particularly to a religion that was based on the traditions of the fathers (Mk 7:1-9), one can still crucify Jesus today.   Modern-day crucifixion of Jesus continues when individuals “crucify to themselves the Son of God” with those sins that originally led to the crucifixion of Jesus in the first century.

[See you tomorrow.]

Jesus is Immanuel (9)

Light:

 Jesus as the Immanuel revealed the way out of the darkness of this world into the light of the realm of God’s existence.

Jesus proclaimed to the multitudes, I am the light of the world. He who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (Jn 8:12). These words were John’s quotation of what Jesus affirmed during His earthly ministry. But the Holy Spirit was not finished with this concept about who the Son of God was among us. Concerning His last revelation of Jesus as the light, the Holy Spirit inspired John to write, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another” (1 Jn 1:7). “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 Jn 1:5). The light is where all of us want to be. We seek to escape from the darkness of this world in order to walk in the eternal light of God. It was for this reason that Jesus brought the eternal light of God into this world.   We follow Him as the light, therefore, in order to be led out of darkness into the eternal realm of light in the presence of God.

For those Jews of faith in the first century, the Messiah was more than what they had hoped. Not long into Jesus’ ministry, many people of faith soon discovered that “in Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (Jn 1:4). Jesus had come into a world of darkness, but “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not understand it” (Jn 1:5). Because God is light, anyone who would come from the presence of God must of necessity bring with Him light (1 Jn 1:5-7). And since Jesus came from God, He came as a bearer of light for all who live in the darkness of the world.

Jesus is Immanuel (8)

Example:

Jesus as the Immanuel revealed to the people of God a relational behavior by which we can live in response to the gospel.

Though the Jews had a nationalistic concept concerning the coming of the Messiah, there was still the need for the incarnation.   They erroneously believed that the Messiah would come in order to deliver them from their oppressors. But they had a limited concept concerning the origin and purpose of this Messiah. According to their beliefs, the Messiah would simply be a man born of a woman who would rise to prominence among the Jews just as Moses. Their understanding that this Messiah would actually be an incarnation of God was not in their thinking. It was a mystery that was kept from the minds of men until He was revealed and experience (Ep 3:3-5; 1 Pt 1:10-12).

When Jesus said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father,” God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit knew that we needed a living example to usher us through this world. We needed more than a good religious leader who was born to a carpenter of Nazareth, and then would pronounce theological dictates to the people.   We needed an incarnate God who would give us the purest form of discipleship that would be the model for all men. Therefore, Jesus’ statement of John 13:15 reveals the example of what gospel living demands: “For I have given you an example that you should do as I have done to you.”

When Jesus made this statement, He, as the incarnate Son of God, had just washed the feet of the disciples. These were the same disciples who considered Him to be their Lord and Teacher (Jn 13:13). So Jesus said to them, “If I then, the Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (Jn 13:14). We are now at the table as invited guests, and it is Jesus the Messiah who led by giving us examples of service (See Mk 10:44,45; Lk 22:27). As His disciples, we must do likewise.

Jesus’ washing of the feet of the disciples in the John 13 context, therefore, is quite incomprehensible. He was the Creator of the dirty feet He washed (Cl 1:16).   And yet, He as the Creator was on His knees washing the feet of man. This example of servanthood surpasses any example that man could possibly give for others to follow. If God can wash our dirty feet, then we have no excuse whatsoever not to serve others as He served us.

Jesus is Immanuel (7)

Understanding:

 Jesus as the Immanuel was the revelation of the heart of God in order to draw all men unto the gospel.

Following the third century, one of the great theological misunderstandings concerning the function of Jesus was that He ascended so far away from the Christian that another intermediary was necessary in order to make contact with Him. Misguided theologians subsequently made Mary, the mother of Jesus, the new intercessor on behalf of the saints. Some recent exaltations of Mary are “that the Virgin [Mary] intercedes for us in heaven and that her intercession is so universal that every grace passes through her hands” (Paul H. Hallet, What is a Catholic, p. 77). Since Mary is supposed to intercede on behalf of the saints, we “may also pray to the Blessed Virgin …” (William J. Cogan, A Catechism for Adults, p 16).

But the preceding is not what is taught concerning the relationship that Jesus now has with His people. The preceding teaching was indirectly making its way into the thinking of the disciples even by the time the book of Hebrews was written.   The substitute for Jesus was not Mary.   Some Christians, however, were reverting to the intermediary function of the Levitical priesthood. For this reason, the Hebrew writer made the following reassuring statement concerning the relationship that Jesus, as “God with us,” was with all His disciples: “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all things tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hb 4:15).

Because we personally have a high priest who shows empathy toward us, the Hebrew writer wanted to embolden us to approach unto the throne of grace directly through Jesus: “Therefore, let us come boldly to the throne of grace, so that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hb 4:16). We have direct access to Jesus because He partook of the same environment of temptation in which we live. He was “tempted as we are,” and thus, He understands our predicament in this world.   Add to this the encouragement of Paul, For through Him [Jesus] we both have access by one Spirit to the Father (Ep 2:18).

On earth, Jesus was personally with His disciples in order that God have a personal relationship with His people.   Because He personally in the body ascended out of their presence (At 1:11), this does not mean that He discontinued His relationship with His disciples. He is not personally with us at this time in bodily form, but we are assured that He will be personally with us in bodily form when He comes again (At 1:11; 1 Jn 3:2). It is for the restoration of his personal relationship that we yearn.

The prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 was that the Immanuel (“God with us”) would be comforting to those who accepted Him as the Savior of the world. Any theology that would teach that Jesus is distant from us is an attack against the very purpose for which God intended the incarnational Son of God would be in His relationship with us. When Jesus ascended to the right hand of God, He went away bodily, but not in presence spiritually. He only assumed another function of being that would draw us closer to the Father by drawing us closer to Him. He understands our predicament of life because He continually relates to our suffering, though He is not personally with us at this time as He was with the early disciples.

Jesus is Immanuel (6)

Name:

 Jesus as the Immanuel was the revelation of God with us who now has all authority in heaven and on earth.

The appeal of the gospel to all people was stated by Paul in Philippians 2: “Therefore, God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow (Ph 2:9,10).

The word “name” refers to authority. It is in this time of history that all authority has been given unto Jesus who reigns over all things (Mt 28:18; Ph 2:9-11).   The Father raised up Jesus to be “far above all principality and power and might and dominion and every name that is named (Ep 1:21). Therefore, “there is salvation in no other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (At 4:12). And for this reason, everyone in this dispensation of time who would be saved, must obey the gospel in the name of Jesus (At 2:38).

All baptized believers now live under the influence of the gospel because of their obedience to the word of Christ (Jn 12:48).   Paul therefore exhorted, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus (Cl 3:17). Paul also reminded the Philippians, “Only let your behavior be worthy of the gospel of Christ [the Messiah] (Ph 1:27). In living the gospel, Christians must strive “together for the faith of the gospel” (Ph 1:27). In doing this, they are living according to the name (authority) of Jesus.

Jesus is Immanuel (5)

Advocate:

 Jesus as the Immanuel was the revelation of God who seeks to work continually on our behalf in reference to our problem of sin.

It may be that we view lawyers with some distaste, but when we speak of Jesus as our lawyer, we want to give Him a hug.   Jesus is the lawyer (advocate) who pleads for our case. He not only pled our case on the cross that we be justified of all our crimes (sins) against God, He also took those sins upon Himself that we be judged righteous before God (1 Pt 2:24). John reminds all Christians, “My little children, these things I write to you so that you do not sin. And if anyone sins, we have a Counselor [advocate] with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 Jn 2:1).

Jesus continually acts on the behalf of those who have given themselves to Him through obedience to the gospel. His function as our advocate was activated at the cross. “Therefore, He is able also to save those to the uttermost who come to God through Him, seeing He always lives to make intercession for them(Hb 7:25). The Hebrew writer reminds us that our Advocate appears “in the presence of God for us” (Hb 9:24). The emphasis of this statement is not to make God seem distant from us. On the contrary, the Hebrew writer wanted to metaphorically associate the Father and our Advocate in close contact with one another on our behalf. In other words, “We have such a high priest who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Hb 8:1).

We must never forget, therefore, what Paul reminded Timothy: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Tm 2:5). It is this Christ (Messiah) “who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” (Rm 8:34).

Jesus is Immanuel (4)

Messiah:

 Jesus as the Immanuel was the fulfillment of all prophecies that were related to the coming of the One who would spiritually lead Israel as Moses led God’s people physically from Egyptian bondage.

The Messiah was the One many Jews anticipated to be the coming redeemer of Israel.   The Greek word that is used in reference to the Messiah is the word “Christ.”

For centuries, the Jews were waiting for the fulfillment of the promised Deliverer who would be like unto Moses (See Dt 18:15-18). For many, the anticipation for His coming came to a peak during the events surrounding the birth of Jesus.   At the time, Israel was under the oppression of the Roman Empire. But King Herod—Rome’s appointed King of the Jews—was fearful of this coming King.   He knew the prophecies of the Messiah and believed that the Messianic King had been born in Bethlehem. He subsequently killed all the children two years of age and under in order to eliminate any assumed competition for the power of his sons who would succeed him (Mt 2:16-18).

Rumors concerning the events of the birth of Jesus spread throughout Palestine. And then about thirty years after the birth of Jesus, came the ministry of John the Baptist. At the time of John’s ministry, the anticipation for the Messiah was so great that some assumed that even John could be the Messiah. But John answered their confusion, “I am not the Christ [Messiah] (Jn 1:20). John explained, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said” (Jn 1:23).

Then there were those disciples who were so anxious for the coming of the Messiah that upon the basis of the initial proclamations of Jesus as the Messiah, they willing believed that Jesus was the One.   Philip was one of those anxious individuals. After briefly encountering Jesus, Philip ran to his brother, Simon (Peter), and said, “We have found the Messiah” (Jn 1:41). The proclamation of Jesus as the Messiah touched the hearts of the initial disciples of Jesus. They believed on the basis of John’s simple proclamation that Jesus was the Messiah (See Jn 1:43-51).

And indeed Jesus was the Messiah who had come.   When Jesus was with a Samaritan woman, even she revealed the expectation of the Samaritans concerning the coming of the Messiah. She said to Jesus, “I know that Messiah is coming (who is called Christ). When He comes, He will tell us all things” (Jn 4:25). Jesus answered, “I who speak to You am He (Jn 4:26).

As the Jews looked for and expected the coming of the Messiah, with the same expectation we too look for His coming again at the end of time. Immediately after His ascension, two angels stood by the disciples and promised, “This same Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven will come in like manner as you have watched Him go into heaven” (At 1:11). Therefore, “we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pt 3:13).

Jesus is Immanuel (3)

Man:

Jesus as the Immanuel was the incarnation of God who seeks to have a relationship with man.

In order for God to relate with us, God the Son of necessity had to give up being in the spirit form of God in order to be made in the likeness of those with whom He would establish an eternal relationship (Ph 2:6,7). God the Son in the spirit (Jn 4:24), thus became God in the flesh in order to dwell among us (Jn 1:14). So in the beginning before all was created, the Word (Immanuel) was with God, “and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1). But after the incarnation, and when the early disciples were with Jesus, they experienced through Jesus the person of God.

It was in the spiritual image of God that God dwelt among men in the flesh of Jesus.   The Son of God was “made in the likeness of men” (Ph 2:7). His body was the vehicle by which God moved among men. While incarnate in the flesh of a man, He could be tempted with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (See Mt 4:1-17; 1 Jn 2:16). He was moved with compassion (Mt 14:14). He felt the frustration of being rejected by the Jews to whom He had come with a message of redemption from law (Jn 1:11; see Is 53).   He was one who could be exceedingly sorrowful for the condition of mankind (Mt 9:36; 23:37; Mk 8:2).

As the Immanuel, Jesus was not only made in the physical body of man, but also made after the emotional psychology of men.   He could feel as we feel, and thus have sympathy for our predicament in the flesh. His response to life in the company of people revealed how God identified with humanity. In order that God truly be with His people, He had to come in the totality of who man is, but at the same time, and in some way, not give up His deity. He emptied Himself of the spirit form of God in order to be made in the physical form of man.